The only thing as impressive this season as the Phillies' 3-4 in the lineup has been their 1-2 punch in the rotation.
While Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto have carried the offense, Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler have been every bit as effective as the Phillies hoped. Nola, in particular, has had his A+ stuff for most of his last three starts and has had ludicrous success.
Nola has a 2.05 ERA and 0.65 WHIP through four starts. He's struck out 37 and walked four in 26⅓ innings. And unlike last year when he allowed seven home runs in his first five starts, Nola has kept the ball in the yard, giving up just three.
When Nola is as locked in as he's been the last two weeks, it doesn't matter whatsoever who he's facing. He's dominated strong Red Sox teams three times in his career, he's never lost to the Dodgers, he's 11-5 with a 2.82 ERA against the Braves and he struck out a dozen Yankees earlier in the month.
The main reason why is that Aaron Nola's arsenal is every bit as valuable as Aaron Judge's power. The best version of Nola is equal to or better than the best version of the hitters he faces. He has become a true three-pitch monster. He always had the nasty hook, and the two-seam fastball always danced back into the zone to freeze hitters, but the changeup has made Nola one of baseball's best.
Since the start of 2018, Nola's curveball ranks first in the majors by far, according to Fangraphs' pitch values. His changeup has graded out as the fourth-best in the majors this season. And his fastball ranks 19th-best over the last three years. What a repertoire.
Nola will also throw his changeup to righties but its effectiveness against lefties has eliminated any possible platoon split. Lefties hit .310 against Nola in 2015, his rookie season. They hit .250 the next two seasons. They've hit .206 the last three seasons and are 2 for 29 with 10 strikeouts this year.
Nola has 20 more strikeouts than baserunners allowed this season. He is tied with Sonny Gray for the National League lead in wins above replacement for pitchers at 1.1. But the reason why he inspires so much confidence is not because of any single stat or metric. It's because pitch by pitch, sequence by sequence, he has as much "stuff" as anyone in the league.